Russia & CIS Hold Air Defence Exercises, NATO Watches From Sidelines


ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow
7 Apr 04

Moscow Region (Russian Air Force central command post), 7 April: Air
force and air defence units of eight CIS states – Russia, Armenia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine –
are taking part in a command and headquarters exercise of the
Commonweath’s joint air defence system.

Over 50 CIS air defence command posts are involved, reporters were
told today by Lt-Gen Aytech Bizhev, the (Russian) Air Force deputy
C-in-C with responsibility for the joint air defence system. Also
taking part are about 60 aircraft including Su-29, Mig-29 and Mig-31
fighters, Su-25 ground attack aircraft, Su-24 front-line bombers,
Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and also intelligence-gathering aircraft.

The Russian Air Force unit based in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, is taking part
in such exercises for the first time, Gen Bizhev said. An inflight
refuelling tanker took off from NATO’s base at Manas near Kant
today. “They’re carrying out reconnaissance of course. They know about
today’s exercises, which are being watched with great interest at all
military bases in adjacent countries,” Bizhev stressed.

Asked if NATO aircraft will be used as notional targets during today’s
manoeuvres, he said: “We track them by electronic means. If NATO
aircraft breach established flight rules, we shall take appropriate

Bizhev also said that “these exercises should not be seen as a
response to NATO’s deployment of warplanes in the Baltics. We plan
exercises like these ones every year and they are routine.”

(The point of the exercise was to rehearse the “repulse of sudden
airspace incursions and prevent hijacks”, a later ITAR-TASS report, at
1027 gmt, said. It added that Russian Air Force C-in-C Vladimir
Mikhaylov was in overall command.)